Facebook has removed the “feeling fat” emoticon from its status menu following a digital backlash from activists who complained that it normalized body-shaming.
“We’ve heard from our community that listing ‘feeling fat’ as an option for status updates could reinforce negative body image, particularly for people struggling with eating disorders,” a Facebook spokeswoman said Tuesday. “So we’re going to remove ‘feeling fat’ from the list of options. We’ll continue to listen to feedback as we think about ways to help people express themselves on Facebook.”
Activists associated with the group Endangered Bodies launched multiple Change.org petitions in late February as part of a campaign tied to National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Their goal was to persuade Facebook to remove the “feeling fat” option, represented by a smiling emoticon with puffed-up and rosy cheeks. Fat is not a feeling, these activists said — and offering such an option could be especially problematic for people who struggle with eating disorders.
“When Facebook users set their status to ‘feeling fat,’ they are making fun of people who consider themselves to be overweight, which can include many people with eating disorders,” wrote Catherine Weingarten, a 24-year-old Ohio student who launched the U.S. version of the petition. “That is not ok. Join me in asking Facebook to remove the ‘fat’ emoji from their status options.”
Following Facebook’s announcement, Weingarten told Change.org in a statement: “As someone who struggled with body image, I feel so happy that I am eliminating one form of body shaming hatred on the internet.”
By Tuesday afternoon, the U.S. petition had more than 16,000 signatures — and the emoticon was gone from Facebook.